Thursday, December 3, 2015

Game 205: Disciples of Steel (1991)

Disciples of Steel
United States
MegaSoft Entertainment (developer and publisher)
Released 1991 for Atari ST; 1993 for DOS
Date Started: 3 December 2015    
"Role-playing with all of the tedious details and none of the fun" is how Computer Gaming World, in its November 1996 issue, described Disciples of Steel upon naming it the 48th "worst game of all time." Based on my playing so far, this review seems a little unfair. Disciples is a somewhat derivative game, sure, but sometimes that's what you want. 1990 and 1991 are full of games that over-reached; that eschewed traditional RPG mechanics only to offer something worse in their place. Consider the recent Antares, where almost every original deviation from its Bard's Tale roots was also kind of stupid. We need--or, more specifically, my blog needs--games like Disciples of Steel to provide occasional anchors.

Disciples of Steel, the only game from Texas developer MegaSoft, is at least original in one regard: it is the first non-SSI game that I can identify that is clearly inspired by SSI mechanics. The Gold Box series had managed to field 8 titles through 1991, and I've been waiting for other developers to start replicating its tactical combat mechanics. (In contrast, we've seen dozens of derivatives of Wizardry, The Bard's Tale, and Dungeon Master.) But Disciples isn't based on the Gold Box. It is instead a love letter to an early, more complex predecessor: Wizard's Crown (1985). I gave up on Wizard's Crown early because of its difficulty and because I didn't know what I was doing during my first year (I'll give the game another chance when I swing back through 1985), but I never stopped admiring its dedication to details and statistics, even when they became a little overwhelming.

Graphics have significantly improved, but I'm convinced that Disciples of Steel (below) is based directly on Wizard's Crown (above).
From Crown, Disciples takes its basic approach to combat, including the large number of options, the expenditure of movement points, the importance of facing direction and the ability for enemies' blows to cause characters to suffer bleeding damage from round to round (fortunately, unlike Crown, bleeding characters don't immediately die if you exit combat while they're still bleeding). As in Crown, accumulated experience points are spent directly on improvement of skills an attributes. Some of the weaknesses are here, too, including a sense of micromanagement that I admit might leave my final review echoing CGW's if the game lasts too long.

I'm still in the process of researching the origins of Disciples. By all accounts in databases, it was released for the Atari ST in 1991 before getting a DOS port in 1993 or 1994. In this, it is a bit of an oddity. Almost all Atari ST releases on my list also have Amiga releases, and by 1991 the platform was already waning in popularity, particularly among U.S. developers. (The majority of RPGs released for the ST after 1990 are from European developers.) One suspects that the company realized it had bet on the wrong horse after a lukewarm original release and scrambled to port the game to a more popular platform over the next couple of years.

A warrior enjoys an open fire in his house as the game begins.

I'm playing the DOS version even though the time between ports gave me a few pangs. When I fired up the game and saw the opening screens with animated graphics and fully-voiced (if badly-acted) audio, it seemed more indicative of a 1993 or 1994 game than 1991. However, apparently these things were present in the 1991 version as well. This isn't quite a first, although it might be the first RPG with voiced audio of this length. It seems to be more common in 1991, and it's hard to say what titles were released first. In any event, I had trouble with the ST files, and judging by online video and descriptions, the gameplay elements seem similar enough to the DOS version that I'm still getting an authentic 1991 experience by playing it.

When I saw the game coming up on my blog, I assumed it would be futuristic or post-apocalyptic. I must have had the Brotherhood of Steel on my mind. In fact, it's set in a fairly generic high fantasy kingdom. A combination of the manual text and the introductory screens sets up the story. The game takes place among the nine kingdoms of Lanathor, historically at war with each other. Twelve years ago, a greater threat emerged: a horde of orcs and goblins gathered in the Unthar mountains on the border to the kingdom of Rathadon. Three of the kingdoms united and commissioned a hero named Ustfa Nelor to deal with the threat. He, in turn, formed an elite army called the Disciples of Steel. His campaign destroyed the army and sent King Krighton Krigg of Rathadon fleeing. It was a Pyrrhic victory, as only 11 of Nelor's men survived, and all of them (including Nelor) disappeared on the return journey.

The manual casts the player as Nelor's step-son, convinced he is the Chosen One who will unite all the kingdoms and drive out the evil for good. His high opinion of himself is bolstered when, one night while he's at home polishing his sword, an old seer comes to his door. This part is animated and voiced in the game's introductory screens. "It is time for the Disciples of Steel to rise once again," she rasps. "You and those like you have been chosen. You must triumph where your ancestors have fallen!" With a "behold!" she shows an image of an army marching into the mountains to confront some sort of demon mage who either threatens the seer (DOS version) or proclaims that the world is his (Atari ST version).

Character creation is fairly boilerplate, although the game errs on the side of plenty in the number of races and classes. You pick from human, elf, half-elf, dwarf, gnome, halfling, ogre, and troll races, all with the typical strengths, weaknesses, and class restrictions. Classes are warriors, knights, priests, mages, illusionists, rogues, monks, rangers, and blacksmiths. Attributes are strength, intelligence, wisdom, accuracy, intuition, constitution, charm, and luck. (The manual insists that "dexterity" is important for warriors and knights and then doesn't offer dexterity as an attribute; I assume this was changed to accuracy late in the game.) The party allows for eight characters, so you can have one of every race but not one of every class. I eschewed the monk. I like finding and upgrading weapons and armor too much to support someone who fights without them. This is the first game in my chronology (I think) to emphasize "illusionist" as a gnomish specialty.

Attributes are on a scale of around 40-110; the lowest roll I saw was 42 and the highest was 103. The game rolls these for you, although you can re-roll indefinitely. One thing I noticed is that the game randomly sets the character's age before rolling the stats. The manual notes that certain races only live to certain maximum ages, and if you weren't paying attention, you could easily end up with a character just a few years shy of that age. Unfortunately, to reject an age you have to discard the character and start over.

Rolling a character. The game has made my human priest 98 years old, meaning he's likely to just keel the moment I create him. I'd better start over.

After you accept the attributes, "a complex relationship between various statistics and the disciple's class" determines where he or she stands in 11 skills: armor, shield, dodge, edge weapons, crushing weapons, axes, spears, bows, open hand, tracking, and hiding. You finish by selecting the portrait. The overall character creation process is quite long and took me almost an hour for my eight-character party:

  • Simoana, a female human knight
  • Boanergo, a male ogre warrior
  • Didymus, a male half-elf ranger
  • Steuermann, a male elf rogue
  • Nialphe, a female halfling mage
  • Thaddaeus, a male gnome illusionist
  • Fanatica, a female human priest
  • Octavianus, a male dwarf blacksmith
The new disciples.
Finally, before you embark, the game has you arrange the characters in a default formation, including both position and facing. I did my best, but naturally I'll want to edit this as I discover more about combat.

Characters start with no gold and a small selection of basic weapons and armor suitable to their classes. Gameplay begins on a road near a castle.

The party embarks.
I spent quite a bit of time wandering around the castle trying to figure out how to actually get in--more on that in a bit--and in doing so triggered my first combat with a group of "jabberlings."

Has any player ever chosen "beg for mercy" on a screen like this?
I'll naturally have more on combat when I have some more experience with it, but in brief terms anyone familiar with Wizard's Crown or Shard of Spring, perhaps even the Gold Box titles, would understand it with little problem. Each character and each monster moves according to an initiative order and can do things like attack, defend, and cast. If you cast a spell, you choose how much power to put into it; I can't remember if this was an option in Wizard's Crown, but it was by the time of Shard of Spring and Demon's Winter.

Each body part has an individual armor class and takes individual damage; it appears that attacks that overcome the armor will then cause injury and "bleeding" damage that characters must heal (each character has a different first aid skill level). Actions like moving, attacking, healing, and casting expend movement points, which are dependent on attributes and encumbrance. SSI is the only other developer I can think of (so far) to feature this "movement points" system in combat, and they got rid of it for the Gold Box games to adhere to D&D rules.

Attacking in melee combat.

And casting a spell.
The fight against the jabberlings took surprisingly long. At first, it looked like there was only one of them, but later I realized there were a lot more off-screen. A few of my characters were wounded and their armor damaged, but after combat I found a few silver and copper pieces and a handful of armor pieces that lent upgrades to my characters. I only got 13 experience points for the combat, but even that's enough to add a point or two to some of my skills.

One of a small number of games where you spend experience points directly on skills. The second column has my current level and the first has the number of points needed for the next level.
Something became clear in combat: the controls are going to be a bit of a nightmare. The game theoretically supports an all-keyboard interface, but the way the commands work is inconsistent. In some places, you hit the initial letter of your choice (e.g., [V]iew character), but in others you have to arrow through commands and hit ENTER to activate them. Even using the mouse, the choice of commands isn't always clear. It was late in combat before I realized that you could right-click on characters to get a full list of commands. In the wilderness, right-clicking on the party ended up being the mechanism to enter a city.

The manual doesn't document the commands, or anything, very well. The "combat" section lasts two pages, and the actual mechanics of combat, like moving and attacking, are described in general terms in just two paragraphs. Perhaps there was some additional document that came with the game that I haven't discovered.

Equipping some new items.
Anyway, after combat, I had my blacksmith fix my damaged armor, equipped the new armor I'd picked up, and then headed into the city of Farnus, capital of the kingdom of Farnus, one of the nine kingdoms. The others, I should mention, are Tobruk, Rathadon, Delinor, Constantium, Denias, Sesserna, DeMata, and...Serbia. (Serbia was still part of Yugoslavia in 1991, and rarely mentioned in American media before 1992, so perhaps it sounded archaic and exotic to the creators.) Anyway, Farnus is named in the manual as the most powerful of the kingdoms, although a lot of people seem to think that King Leonidas Krassus is too old and too benevolent and his son, Aaron, is weak. Farnus has been at war with Serbia for some time, with both countries trying to control the Mithril-rich Sellenist River. Attempts to ally with Constantium have failed because the emissaries keep getting assassinated.

Getting the first quest.

In the palace, the king--who didn't look very old to me--gave me my first quest: find a survivor of the Battle of Unthar, rumored to be living in the city of Teal to the southeast. I'm to find him and any information about the fate of Ustfa Nelor.

The largish city also included a shipwright, a weapons shop, an armor shop, a temple, and the Disciples of Steel guild. In the latter, you can store and retrieve money, food, and water; rest; and get "spy reports" indicating the population and military composition of the current city. This is fairly cool, although the report for Farnus alone, detailing each unit, was 40 pages. The manual promises a whole mechanic by which you can raise armies and attack cities, assassinate leaders, and otherwise bring kingdoms under your control, and I assume this intelligence will be important for that purpose.

Couldn't I just have them all in one spreadsheet or something?
The screens that accompany each location are animated, and some of them include sound. For instance, at the weapons shop, an animation shows a blacksmith pounding a weapon on an anvil, with accompanying clangs. We've seen animation in shops going all the way back to The Bard's Tale, but it's still pretty rare and better done here than in any game I can remember.

The animation even has the glow level of the sword increase and decrease
There were no NPCs or any special encounters within the city--probably true of all cities--so I did wish after a while that the developers had just made it a menu town instead of requiring so much walking. At least you can leave the town by just right-clicking on the party and choosing "Leave."

Wandering around the large city.
I didn't have enough money to dramatically increase my equipment, so I decided to rely on what I had and head southeast in search of Teal. Within four steps, I came to a large body of water, so it's not going to be as easy as I'd hoped. About two steps after that, I got surprised by a group of assassins and thugs who killed my entire party in the first round. Wow. I guess the jabberlings had let me a little complacent.

How am I fighting enemies of this difficulty this fast?
Upon full-party death, the game gives you "a glimpse of Hell," which seems a little unfair to my nobly-intended party. Then it returns you to the game screen, but you can't move or do anything because everyone is dead. You either need to reload or dump party members and make new ones.

Adding to the confusion, I have no idea what the things in the lower-right corner are telling me.

I think I'll close there, but there are a lot of game elements that I haven't covered that hint at a deeper game. I'm not sure how spell points work, exactly--each spellcaster seems to have a pool, divided into "karma" (priests), "essence" (mages), and "power" (illusionists), but they also seem limited in the number of spells they can cast per combat round. There's a food and water system, and the whole business of controlling cities that I don't yet understand. Dungeons apparently use an entirely different, first-person interface. Disciples of Steel promises to be a fairly large, long game.


  1. I tried this game about three years ago, and had high hopes for it (I wanted to play it as a kid but missed it since there was no Amiga version), but was disappointed. This was my reaction after trying it:
    "Clunky controls. Small view window + large, mostly empty cites. Having to manually check the prices on each item in turn in shops. Inadequate documentation. Very poor graphics for a 1994 DOS game (just a port from the four years older Atari ST/Amiga version, I guess)."

    In retrospect the last point was unfair; the graphics are not that bad and there was no Amiga version.
    Still, having to wander around in huge, empty cities instead if using menu towns is a major pet peeve of mine.

    I guess the combat is the best part of the game, but I never got that far. I didn't likt the system in Wizard's Crown since you couldn't see which way enemies were facing. I assume that's been improved in this game? Another game which used the WC style combat, and improved on in, was Nahlahk, which I thought was an excellent game, with small Ultima style towns.

    Funny that your eight character in a game that I Included on my worst 5 CRPGs is named Octavianus. :-)

    1. Well, I went with a disciple/apostle theme. Simoana after Simon; Boanergo after John or James, "one of the Boanerges"; Thomas, "also called Didymus"; Steuermann is German for "tax man," after Matthew "the tax collector; Nialphe after James, "son of Alphaeus"; Thaddeus who has Jude's role in Matthew and Mark; Fanatica after Simon "the Zealot."

      As for Octavianus...well, his analog should be easy to identify.

    2. As for the game, I think I'll probably end up feeling like you did despite feeling positively about it at the outset.

    3. Nahlahk was great, particularly the magic system. Is it still being supported? It's been like... 20 years since I last played it.

    4. Well, 'Steuermann' is used for the people on boats steering the ship (steersman or tillerman). A tax collector is either a 'Steuereintreiber' or a 'Finanzbeamter'. Just a little nitpicking from one of your German readers... ;-)

    5. And Octavianus a beardless dwarf? Scandalous!

    6. I do like Nahlakh though it is pretty difficult. I believe Tom Proudfoot (the creator) gave permission for the hint book to be freely distributed now (he used to have the game free, then sell the book as a shareware deal). It runs under dosbox if you fancied playing it again.

    7. If anyone is interested 9 years later, the Waltorious blog has a nice detailed overview of Nahlakh also...

  2. This was a game that I bought back when it was released on the PC; because the clerk at the local computer game shop swore to me it was just like the Gold-Box games. I tried to like it, but in the end, I felt I had been cheated out of the $50 I paid for it.

    Over the years, I tried to play it several times, but never got very far. On the surface, the combat looks sort of like the SSI titles, but that's about where the comparison ends for me. It didn't fill the void for me at all.

    If you make it far into the game, at least I'll finally know whether I was right in my dislike for this game or whether I should dig it out and dust it off to give it another shot.

  3. I am your usual anonymous reader.

    I finished this game. Word of advise: to win game you need to do all quests, and its easy to fail quest - since open-world of game allows you to enter dungeon for which you didnt get quest yet, you can kill quest mob (you wont knew it is quest mob) and leave his body behind (not taking it). And then quest giver will ask to bring body of this monster (it dont respawn).

    1. That's helpful. I'll limit random exploration of dungeons, then.

  4. I discovered this gem a few years back. It's an awesome game... (but that come from someone considering Knights of Legend the best crpg ever made.).
    May be the only crpg where you get to conquer cities, manage their defense, and declare war to other rulers.

    But WARNING: there is a copy protection LATE in the game.
    The version I played was a dos file with doxbos (so may be you are safe with what you are emulating, but I wouldn't count on that)
    The game had one hidden protection : After some level (or some skill level, very high skill level meaning you spend a few many hours already to get that kind of xp) your party member have either their skill reset to a low level, or cannot spend anymire xp, or something to that extend.

    And as you already experimented (with the learning curve from jabberstuf to Brigand): underskilled character are unable to succeed in later challenging combat.

    There is a "crack" somewhere on the net. Try searching the game name with 'copy protection' to get it.
    But if I remember corrector it is just a hexadecimal stuff allowing to get any skill level you want despite the protection.

  5. Some links for you

    This is developer,291589/

    This is very good walkthough if you are stuck

    If you cant hit enemy and keep missing, use Aim (you lose turn). Monk is very good, it can stun hardest mobs reliably, but i played without him. Also i didnt take blacksmith just repaired with off-party (i think you can) blacksmith or in store.

    Assasins are random encounters, game is open world so you sometimes meet very hard to kill mobs.

    1. If I just got unlucky that one time, that's cool. I like it when games have a mixture of difficulty throughout rather than offering predictably easy "opening areas." But if it keeps happening, it's going to dampen my mood.

      Martin Kruse has like 7 different entries on MobyGames (the site really needs to merge some of its duplicates in people and companies), but the totality of them suggests that he worked on DoS in 1991-1993 then disappeared until about 2013 when he shows up again on some major titles. I wonder what he did in the meantime.

      I'll try to look up more information about him as we go forward, of course.

    2. Wasn't "Martin Kruse" the name of the evil guy in The Karate Kid?

    3. I believe it's Martin "Kove". Also, he's not a nice guy but I don't think we should classify him as "evil". Misguided, yes, but unlike his students, he grew up never knowing a sensei like Mr. Miyagi.

  6. I just realized that the interface for Wizard's Crown is shared with Roadwar 2000 (1986). Apologies if this has been commented previously and I missed it.

    1. It has absolutely not been pointed out. Great catch. I guess RW2000 still isn't an RPG because it lacks characters and traditional RPG development, but the combat interface is definitely the same.

    2. I think the vehicles in RW2000 are the 'characters', and they are upgradable. I loved this game back in the commodore 64 days, but never managed to finish it. I always concentrated on getting the biggest fleet of semi-trucks and HUGE army's and then that would become unsustainable.

      I recently came back to it, and it was pretty easy if you made a modest sized fleet, and then concentrated on finding the scientists.

      I do think based on your criteria you could make a case for it as an RPG. Overall it was a pretty unique and fun game. I loved rolling in to the different places in the US and finding 'special stuff" like a really good bureaucrat in DC, and coole vehicle upgrades in indianapolis.


    3. Based on your criteria for what makes a CRPG (as listed in the FAQ), I would say that RW2000 could fit the category. It certainly felt like a CRPG when I played it all those years ago.

    4. Despite my enjoyment of RW2000, first on the C64 and later on UAE, I must say it has the mechanics of an RPG without the feel. The player character has no attributes or advancement other than the number of vehicles that can be commanded at one time.

      The vehicles do indeed operate as characters, and improve with in game discoveries as the game is explored. Losing a tricked out vehicle is frustrating, but it is ultimately not the same as losing a high level character in a more standard RPG, where access to higher level magic is a necessity just to reach the end of the game.

      The soldiers that make up your gang earn promotions after combat experience, but the gang members are faceless entities numbering in the dozens or hundreds. When low on food, how many can remember sending your lowest gang members to scout, hoping they wouldn't come back?

      What is interesting to me is that a good interface can lend itself to many types of games.

    5. So all this RW2k talk got me fired up to play it again, which I did last night. Here are my observations:
      - I do think it meets the criteria, but it is on the edge
      - The detailed combat is cool, but not necessary. One can run through it a few times for the fun, but then use 'quick combat' with 0-Ram and make it through the computer resolved combat without losing your fleet of vehicles.
      - There are a couple random events that kick you into the main story arc. I played last night and according to what I read, I ended up on the bad side of the RNG, and it took a while for the main story to kick off.
      - It took me about 8 hours to finish it up. A perfect amount of time. Longer and it would have gotten boring. Also just long enough to see some of the unique things spread across the 100+ cities.
      - I'm about half way through FO4. I was planning on playing that last night. This kept my attention over that game. It was a lot of fun and a pleasant diversion.

      I'd love to see Chet play this.


    6. I played Roadwar 2000 for about ten minutes while testing a bunch of Commodore 64 games, and I remember stumbling (in-game) into the studio of the company that made the game.

    7. It turns out RW2000 was already on my 1986 list, so I guess I'll play it as an RPG. If I consider a ship a "character" in Starflight, I guess there's no reason not to consider cars characters in RW2000.

    8. I think post-apocalyptic car combat RPGS need to be more of a thing - I'm looking forward to Chet giving Autoduel another shake.

  7. "The overall character creation process is quite long and took me almost an hour for my eight-character party:"

    That's normally how long I take on RPGs to make a single character. :D

    1. And me, although on most modern rpgs it's because I spend 30 minutes getting my character's nose look extactly right ;)

    2. I spent a good amount of time getting my Fallout 4 character just right, and now I have him running around Boston in a Grognak costume. Irene sensibly pointed out there was little point spending so much time on the face if I was going to just make him look ridiculous in other ways.

    3. Ha, I wasn't even talking about facial features. I am the type of player who rolls all 18s and one 17 on an AD&D game and go... "hmmm... I can still do better *reroll* " ;)

      Of course, that was in the old days. Nowadays it's "I'm going to do 1 month research on reddit to see what traits/perks/stats/weapons/etc are best before I start playing!"

    4. LOL me too. For Disciples, I built a Python script that hits reroll until it meets the desired conditions. When I wake up, I have my character. And, it was relled legit ... right?

  8. That fire...can't be good for those wooden floorboards.

    Your character lives in a home that he has painted purple.

    I wonder if there is something Faustian about Mr "Ustfa".

    Leonidas Krassus, really?

    For some reason this game feels European rather than American.

    1. On top of that, using XP to directly improve statistics also hints strongly of European influences on RPGs.

    2. In Ultima 5 Lazarus you can set camp in people's homes and set fire on the carpet.

    3. The "using XP to improve statistics" thing is what solidifies the game as Wizard's Crown-derived. Other than WC and DoS, there are only a couple of games through 1991 that have this mechanic, and they're nothing like DoS.

    4. Is that true, really? True, DoS and WC let you choose directly, but the mechanic is essentially the same in outcome as the Wizardry et. al. approach of leveling up stats and skills with use. You just don't see the intermediate step of XP.
      Maybe I'm being too tricky- the experience is undoubtedly different.

    5. I'm talking about specifically spending experience points directly on skills. Sure, most RPGs have a general "development" mechanic, but it's usually by leveling, not by spending experience like currency.

    6. Try 3. Stupid back button placement.

      There is a legend in a small town I have family in about a purple house overlooking the harbor. A woman wanted to leave her lazy fisherman husband but in those days the courts would not give her a divorce. So while he was out fishing she painted the whole house purple, and he would not live in a purple house and so started living elsewhere, never setting foot in it again.

  9. "Adding to the confusion, I have no idea what the things in the lower-right corner are telling me."

    I think it's an indication of enemy armor. (H)ead, (C)hest, (A)rms and (L)egs.
    On this screen Jabberling seems to have a plate helm, but nothing else.

    1. Ah, very good. I should have realized it was just left over from the combat screen.

    2. Yeah, PLT must be plate. Bit obscure, that screen, since the body parts are abbreviated so much.

  10. What kind of pre-combat options are those?!

    I'd rather reload after I die than to beg for mercy and live!

    Also, a Halfling Mage and an Elven Rogue? Uh... sure you didn't mix those up, Chet?

    1. I was trying to do everything a little different. I originally wanted a troll mage and a gnome monk, but the game wouldn't let me do that. I played with some other options, but overall it funneled me into the standard race/class combinations except for those two.

    2. "I'd rather reload after I die than to beg for mercy and live!"

      it is officialy one of the funniest comments i ever read.

  11. Serbia is one real world reference and Tobruk is another. It's a Libyan port that was fought over in the Second World War. I find this kind of naming can take me out of the game.

    1. Good find. I Googled a couple of the others but gave up when I didn't find anything. I should have kept going.

    2. Constantium seems like a pretty direct reference to the city of Byzantium/Constantinople.

      By the by, I dislike monks for the same reason you do. Finding flash new gear is one of the most enjoyable things about an RPG. A similar thing happens in games like those of the Fallout series, in which most guns fall under the 'small guns' category, which means you feel like you're missing out if you don't tag it.

    3. I don't even try to specialize in FO. I just carry one weapon for each ammo type and cycle through them, switching to the next one as ammo runs out and resorting to melee weapons if ALL ammo runs out (I particularly like the customized knuckles you can make in FO4).

    4. But, yeah--for the same reason it would be hard to imagine playing an ALL-melee character in one of the FO games, although it would be an interesting challenge.

    5. My experience of melee characters in the modern fallout games is a bit strange, but might match that of others - I found that guns are great in VATS, melee isn't that great in VATS, guns are frustrating in FPS mode, and melee is brutal in FPS mode. It felt like a pair of spiked knuckled solved most issues, including minigun-wielding Brutes, even on very hard difficulty, the attack rate is through the roof.

    6. Hell yeah with melee.

      There's a knife sitting pretty in a rather remote place that has a wildly fluctuating DPS, ranging from 70 to 400+. It's one of the most useful melee weapon to be used in VATS because, if you execute a Critical when it's in its OPed 400+ DPS period, you could kill any boss in one hit.

  12. I played Disciples of Steel back when it first came out. I found it frustrating (Due to numerous bugs and the bad controls) but very enjoyable nonetheless. I tend to like grinding in games to make my characters ridiculously strong and the way the skill increases and equipment worked, Disciples very much scratched that itch. I did beat the game, but that is a story for another day when spoilers are not a concern.

    The funny thing is I went back and tried to play again when the cd version that supposedly fixed a lot of the bugs came out and it wasn't the same. I recall having some issue where my party kept almost instantly starving to death from lack of food and I gave up on it. Now I really want to play it again!

  13. Until hit hit the problem I mentioned earlier, I actually enjoyed DOS, for all its faults. It seemed like a Gold Box game that had more flexible leveling options and skills (incidentally, while you can't make a troll mage, I think you can gradually let him learn spells. Albeit not very well.)

    (I did find the graphics, while on paper better then the early gold box ega games, pretty ugly.)

    Be interesting to see if you finish.

  14. This is like the fourth game where your obstensibly "good" characters go to Hell when you die, isn't it? I think there was Moebius, Windwalker, that Spirit of Ra game, and now this. I have to wonder why games like this get so unnecessarily harsh.

    1. It does seem a little harsh, but on the other hand, it's weird for the narrative if the characters go to Heaven when they die...that's probably a better outcome than the actual ending to the game. :P

    2. Bard's Tale got away with it, but I guess you've got a point.

      I almost kind of wish Chet kept a gallery of all the really harsh "game over" screens he came across. I think Drakkhen's was one of the best, for how it went on for at least two paragraphs of how you being dead made everything terrible forever.

      Like, all right, game, I get it, I suck, sheesh!

    3. With Spirit of Ra, it was less a Judeo-Christian "hell" and more an afterlife, and it was necessary to the plot, but I agree: this does seem to come up repeatedly. In these game worlds, it is not evil but failure that is punished eternally in the afterlife.

  15. My old haunt was the Atari ST, but you're right in that it wasn't usually a developer's first choice going into the 90s. Around that period, the ST release schedule was essentially 80% of all the games that came out on Amiga that year. Still, it's been interesting to see a lot of these familiar games in their DOS incarnations.

    Disciples of Steel, however, I have zero experience with. I wish you luck with it. (I want to say that I've seen that typeface a hundred times before too. Eye of the Beholder/Dark Sun?)

  16. Wow. I never realized that a Disciples of Steel post sure is such a great spam magnet.

    1. Blogger is really starting to piss me off. They could block 99% of this spam with an option to disallow comments with hyperlinks, but instead an extraordinary amount of obvious spam gets through.

    2. To bad you never moved to your own URL, so that you could change blogging platforms.

  17. I've got to say, that is a really nice, legible font, unlike most from this era.

  18. The right-click-to-enter can become tiresome, but then, the hotkeys are surprisingly inconsistent.

    To enter a city, the hotkey is "N", as in "eNter", but to enter a building within a city, the hotkey is "T", as in "enTer". Difficult even to remember.

  19. For CRPG Addict readers who have decided to enjoy this little gem of a game, here is a non-trivial suggestion that really improves the flow of gameplay.

    It may seem paradoxical, but increasing the "Delay" in the "???/Control Panel" menu to a setting greater than zero actually eliminates constant annoying pauses and makes the game run much more smoothly.

    Ostensibly this sets the amount of time the game will briefly pause after it displays a message, but when set to zero, you must actually press a key before the game will continue. When set to anything greater than zero, the game continues without the need for constant keypresses. This setting seems to be reset to the default of zero every time the save game menu is used.

    At the default of zero, many times the game will be paused, but the player may not even realize that it's waiting for a keypress to continue. Also, movement seems quite jerky as virtually every party movement and action then pauses pending a keypress. Once the player realizes this, many actions become an automatic double-keypress to continue, a habit that will almost certainly lead to occasional unintended actions.

    For smooth gameplay, the player should get used to updating this "Delay" setting every time the save game menu has been entered.

    Happy Disciple-ing!

  20. When selling loot to shopkeepers, an option to accept all prices without haggling would surely help to mitigate a little of the unnecessary drudgery.

  21. In the "Rolling a Character" image above, the white column indicates your character's outcome, while the blue column shows the maximum that your character could possibly have rolled for each statistic. Maximums are race and gender specific, and do not change regardless of class selected.

    This presentation creates a little confusion by suggesting that these maximums cannot be exceeded, but during the game, it's possible to raise statistics above the character creation maximum. Each statistic can be raised at a cost of 1,000 xp per point until it reaches the maximum, and then it costs 1,000 xp per point above maximums to raise it further.

    For example, to raise a statistic 4 points above race/gender maximums would cost 10,000 xp: 1,000 xp for 1st above max + 2,000 xp for 2nd above max + 3,000 xp for 3rd above max + 4,000 for 4th above max = 10,000 xp.

    Since the magical classes will never learn the highest level spells without boosting their prime statistic, it's fairly important to start with decent relevant stats, in order to minimize the grinding that is yet to come.

    The other "killer" stat (literally) is accuracy, which affects the order of precedence in combat. Characters with low accuracy often will see all friendly and enemy characters execute actions before they finally have their say on the field of combat. This can generally be bad for one's health. As Chet noted above, this would be more transparent if it had remained "Dexterity." Perhaps the TSR propensity for lawsuits motivated the change?

  22. It's a cruel design choice that the race with the very best wisdom cannot become a cleric.

  23. I am missing nearly to 95%, except battle bats in the beginning. even with aiming. Can I fix that somehow? I needed to reload 12 times and managed to beat 1 fight til now. that really doesnt make fun..

    1. Nope, the early game is absolutely punishing. Google around until you find a version of the game that gives you an extra 1,000 skill points to spend at the beginning--or just give them to yourself via hex editing. Or be prepared to fight a LOT of battle bats as your numbers (very) slowly improve.

      One early game tip: "Stun" is a fantastic spell and worth giving everyone a few points in the associated magic skill so you can cast as many as possible.


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